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Brother Qazi, sorry to see you go

Brother Qazi, sorry to see you go

Author: Jay Bhattacharjee
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 24, 2002

Unlike the typical Anglo-Saxon host, whose happiest moment is to see the retreating tail lights of his guests' cars, this particular Indian will be most sorry to see you go, Ambassador Qazi (you see, I still cannot reconcile myself to the awful colonial resonance of High Commissioner, which also takes up seven more spaces).
In fact, as your aircraft wings its way to Islamabad via some Middle Eastern watering hole, the crumbs from whose Emir's table contribute a healthy percentage to Pakistan's GNP, I will be glum and crestfallen. Into purdah I will not consign myself, because that would be ersatz and not top drawer, as both of us would like to be perceived.

I do not really want to strain your memory, particularly since your social circle in Delhi stretches twice around the equator, but I wonder whether you remember the first time we met. It was in mid-1997, just after your arrival in Delhi. The venue was one of the capital's five-star hostelries and the occasion was an eminently forgettable lunch hosted by one of the minor Western European countries. Your good wife and you happened to share our table along with a vacuous Brit and a clueless Teuton-who was counting his remaining days in India.

Your wife and mine chatted perfunctorily until the topic of discussion veered around to the Tata industrial group. The Begum Sahiba (I do hope this is the right nomenclature, since I have a limited knowledge of Mughal court nuances) stated that she had only vaguely heard of the Parsis and did not really know how these exalted Iranians decided to make India their home.

With considerable trepidation, I related to Madam Ambassador the history of the arrival in Gujarat of the Zoroastrians from Iran, fleeing from Islamic persecution. That is when I saw the hard glint in your eyes, although your smile and your charming banter continued effortlessly. And I knew then that you were an adversary worthy of my attention. By this time, the two Northern Europeans had got into the act: When one of them referred to the Indus Valley civilisation, I quipped that present-day Pakistan should not be allowed to claim any credit for Mohenjodaro and Harappa. This was because your country refused to acknowledge anything that had taken place on this subcontinent before the Arab invasion of Sind. You had the grace to join the laughter around the table, but I knew your mind was working out the ramifications of the discussion.

Since then, I have marvelled at the supreme ease and panache with which you had the Indian elite eating out of your hands. This included not just the capital's greasy hoi polloi nourished on Vitamin M, but also the jholawallahs, dhotiwallahs and the mandarins. Not only did you have them running around in circles like headless chicken, but you also made sure that they thanked you afterwards for their elevating experience. Now, this , I said to myself, is chutzpah of a high order, nay, of the rarest variety. The mystery underlying this sublime talent was soon made known to me.

The capital's diplomatic mafia disclosed your Irish antecedents. As it so happens, this was the secret that everyone in Delhi was looking for. Come to think of it, it might even have been the Brits, who let the cat out of the bag. The English have colonised and exploited the Irish for 10 centuries, but could never reach the cerebral levels of their poorer western neighbours.

That is when I marvelled at the ingenuity of your Foreign Office: To let your Irish blarney take the mickey out of the odious Hindoos was surely a touch of genius. Now, do not get me wrong. It is not that a denizen of the West Punjab or the Frontier cannot attain such transcendental heights, but there is such a thing as the laws of probability. Even you, in all fairness, will agree to my thesis.

The other variable that was so cleverly factored in by the Pakistani counterpart of South Block is the Delhi oligarchy's obsession with Whites. You were almost an honorary White in their eyes, but the best part was that you could supplement this attribute with the elaborate Urdu-Persian gobbledygook that goes down so well with the kabab-kathak brigade in the capital. The Irish charm and the Mughal veneer was a combination that made the Indian establishment look like a Bhagalpur bhaiyya.

When you sermonised to us about democracy, peace and secularism, we listened to you in rapture. This was rich, coming from a country that constitutionally enshrines values totally opposed to these three principles. Your magic wand made almost everyone forget that Pakistan's mullah-Brigadier-drug lord State fabric depended on anti-Indian rhetoric for its very survival.

My friends and I enjoyed your antics while they remained at that stage. It was good to see the Indian mandarins with egg on their faces. It was fun to see how the Delhi establishment fell over themselves at your celebrated tea party last July when your President visited our shores. Do you remember how you took almost the entire Indian Fourth Estate for a ride during that notorious breakfast meeting in Agra? Some people spoke about dark plots, but knowing your Irish magic, I was prepared to give you the credit.

However, deep down, I always knew that your agenda is a much grander one. It is the vivisection of this country and the restoration of the Mughal Empire in Delhi. When it comes to this, it is goodbye to your Irish persona and a return to the fundamental Kipling-like traits that motivate you and your confreres in the corridors of power in Islamabad.

These driving elements in your psyche include a pathological contempt for all things Indian (and non-Islamic), a fervent belief that you lot are physically and psychologically superior to your Eastern neighbours and a burning desire to seek revenge for the humiliation of 1971. Many Indians who took part in that war still recall with amazement the mindset of the average Pakistani officers whom they encountered. Even as your glory boys were surrendering in droves to our troops, they kept on prattling about their martial qualities.

Now, your President, being less adroit than you are, let slip his guard some time back. He spoke of the trauma of 1971 and how it still affected (and propelled) the Pakistani armed forces and establishment. You haven't yet taken off your mask, but there is little doubt that you will do so once you return to your backyard. That is why I will miss you; in these days and this age, where can one see such a nimble trapeze artiste as you? In the history of international revanchism, you will surely have earned yourself a place.

That is why there is the faint hope in my heart that your Irish half will assert itself at some stage, override the mullah-Mughal mindset and induce you to convince your bosses and counterparts in Islamabad about the madness they have embarked upon. It is no longer brownie points that we are talking about; your lot has upped the ante so much that anything can happen.

This may, of course, be hopelessly naive of me, but one lives and hopes. That is why, Mr Qazi, I am sad to see you go. If and when a deranged West Punjabi version of Dr Strangelove does press the fateful button and we all go up in smoke, you will have contributed a fair share. And I trust you will remember it is Bhattacharjee with two 'e's and Jay with an 'a' and not 'o'.

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